Asian Business First Podcast – Outlook for Singapore’s Private Residential Property Sector (26 Oct 2018)
There is currently huge level of interest for properties, given the surge in property price index from late 2017 to third quarter of 2018. There are new cooling measures [12% Additional Buyer Stamp Duty (ABSD) for Singaporeans who purchase a second property] and for new developments (new average size of 85 sqm, from the previous from 70 sqm), no more shoe-box condos for other than the central area. Balcony sizes will be shrunk (not more than 15% of the whole unit). For some old condos, the balconies are too numerous and too large and this limits the liveable space, which is quite a pity. Sentiment among property developers have soured because of the new government property cooling measures.
The various sectors such as commercial, retail, industrial types all have shown weaknesses in terms of rental yield. There are plenty of empty industrial space in Singapore as well of a lot of unoccupied condos around. The on-going US-China trade-war might also affect residential prices as it puts a dampener on the global economy.
The cooling measures are working, as can be seen from a slight decline in residential housing prices at the end of 2018. There are plenty of new launch condo projects in 2018, but there are fewer transacted units, and many projects are not selling that well. For the resale HDB, the number of transactions took a tumble and decreased. The En-Bloc market is also slowing down as a result of the additional stamp duty for developers when they purchase land.
Now, it is a buyers’ market, not a seller’s market, as buyers will adopt a wait and see approach before deciding on anything. There are many En-Blocs which have not found developers to buy, as it might be hard for developers to sell off these units within 5 years. There could be resale units emerging from failed en-bloc units as the previous owners just want to let go of their units. This could lead to a re-pricing of leasehold, freehold properties that failed to En-Bloc, because of the cooling measures and this applies a price pressure downwards. The best is to buy freehold properties in districts 9, 10 and 11. Many home-owners are brought back down to reality after the cooling measures.
Many of the En-Blocs are happening in the HUDC market, and those owners might downgrade to a resale HDB and save their money for their retirement. There are 50,000 new condo units that are new, of which 30,000 of which are unsold. There sounds like a glut in the market at the moment. The thing is that with limited population growth and stable employment and not many PMETs coming in, it is difficult to fill up the vacant units because the growth has tapered somewhat. Rental yields will continue to struggle in the near future. Property investors should certainly think twice before buying something for investment.
Developers build shoebox size units to attract foreign PMETs and property investors. However, for non-central areas, who will want to rent there? That’s the big question. Shoebox units tend to sell at a higher per square foot (psf), and developers will use this to justify charging higher psf for their larger units. People have valid concerns over the small condo sizes. Developers are allowed to build shoebox units, but they will have to build quite a number of 3 bedroom units as well, as the average size must meet the new URA guidelines for condo sizes. These guidelines were not included for the core central region (CCR) because had they were, the prices would be really unaffordable.
On average, the size of HDBs are way larger than private housing, and with a better living environment. A 4 room flat is on average 1,000 sqft. Some developers add the aircon ledge as part of the unit size, which is quite unethical.
The Singapore government really intervenes in the housing market, to control prices, as evidenced by the numerous rounds of cooling measures over the years. An increase in interest rates will eat into your rental yield and hence, your profits. Rental yields are about 3% in Singapore, but interest rates for home mortgages are closing in for 2.5%, and this is uncertain, depending on what the Fed does.